PARENTS

Paralympian Athlete Sophia Warner: Mums Should Sometimes Be Selfish

15/08/2012 18:00 | Updated 22 May 2015

Paralympian Sophia Warner with her husband Hadyn and children Lucca and Felix

Paralympian Sophia Warner, 37, lives in Brighton with her husband Haydn, 38, and their two children, Lucca, seven, and Felix, six.

A complicated birth resulted in cerebral palsy which means Sophia has limited use of both legs and no use of her left arm. She has won silver and bronze at the World Championships and is representing Great Britain at this year's Paralympics in the 100m and 200m.

She tells Parentdish how she combines full time training with being a mum.

How does having cerebral palsy affect you?

Doctors think I had stroke sometime during the first six weeks of my life. It was possibly due to the fact I was a forceps birth and there was a lack of oxygen to my brain as a baby. Although I function as able bodied, I can't move my left arm and both my legs are partially paralysed. It's a brain injury - so my body is physically fit enough but my brain is not able to communicate the signals I need to move my limbs.

My parents were keen not to treat me differently to my younger brother and older sister so I went to a normal school. I was confident and had lots of friends so my cerebral palsy was never really a problem.

Does it make being a mum quite tricky?

When the children were younger it was quite difficult doing the practical things such as changing a nappy or strapping them into the car seat. So many things are two-handed jobs, but with a bit of creative thinking and the help of family and good friends I managed.

I noticed that my kids learned to get dressed long before others - probably because they had to do things for themselves. Although things were often on inside out or back-to-front!

"Sophia is ranked number one in Europe and number two in the world in her events, the T35 100m and 200m. She won silver and bronze at the World Championships and is part of Team GB competing in the 100m and 200m Paralympic Games. Sophia also speaks at schools, clubs and companies to share her story, bringing the message that positive thinking leads to positive outcomes. Good luck Sophia! "

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Where you always good at sport?

My brother Thomas was a good long distance runner and I used to go out with him on training runs. I could run for up to two hours, albeit slowly. I loved it because it gave me such a feeling of freedom. I had quite a funny running style, it was more of a shuffle, as I had to use my core muscles to compensate for my lack of leg muscles.

It wasn't until I was 19 that I started competing with other disabled athletes. Back then it took me 24 seconds to run 100m and now I can do it in 17 seconds.

What sacrifices have you had to make in order to become a professional athlete?

Plenty! I've quit my £75,000 a year job in marketing in order to train six hours a day, six days a week for the Paralympics.

That means we've had to move into a smaller house, get rid of half our belongings and the children have had to change schools.

Lucca didn't like it at first but now both children have really settled. There's a lot of love in our family, which makes the fact we have to tighten our belts a bit easier.

How did it feel to give up your job when you were the main earner?

To be honest I felt really panicked. It reminded me of when I was 21 and went travelling in Thailand. I lay on a beach and realised how small I was. But I knew I had to take responsibility for my life and take a step towards my dream.

What do your children think of your running?

They're used to it now. I often bring them to the track with me. They used to sit on the side with a book or a game but now Lucca will run a warm up lap with me. Sometimes Felix asks me if I'm the fastest person in the world and he'll discuss that with his friends.

Although if someone able-bodied raced against me they'd probably win, I'm running with three paralysed limbs. It's hard for him to understand that difference.

Do you think you've missed out on any aspects of motherhood because of your dedication to the sport?

I've had to rush things like the children's birthday parties and make them at strange times like 11am in the morning to fit in with my training, but I don't think they miss out too much.

Haydn is there for them and I feel as though I'm teaching them important lessons such as dedication and the importance of following your dreams.

How does Haydn cope having such a focused wife?

I have to admit spending time together has gone on the back burner as I'm shattered by 9.30. He does come to the gym with me when the children are at school but he's always been very supportive.

He's always done lion's share of childcare since they were born anyway so it's not such a big change.

What advice do you have for other mothers who have a dream?

My biggest tip is don't think too much or you'll never do it. If you're happy then your children will be too, regardless of whether they have to share a bedroom.

Mums should be selfish and it shouldn't be seen as a negative thing. You should teach your children to get the most out of their life and the most effective way is by showing them that.

For more information on cerebal palsy visit Scope.org.uk.

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